Marlon Humphrey is considered one of the top corners in his class. What team in NFC stands out as a top landing spot for him?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the weeks leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, we dive into defensive backs. Today we look at Marlon Humphrey from the University of Alabama.
When you are part of the machine that is the Alabama Crimson Tide football program, it is sometimes tough to differentiate between a great player and a great team. Humphrey became the starter in 2015 when Alabama won the National Championship and contributed 45 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and three interceptions. This past season he was slightly less productive with 36 tackles, three for loss, and two interceptions. Part of the reason for the drop-off was teams testing him less because he had already established himself as a top college cornerback. As is often the case with defensive players, the box score doesn’t tell the full story of a talented player that has the ability to succeed in the league.
Marlon Humphrey has all of the skills that will allow him to be a successful corner back at the next level. He is a very physical corner that has the strength and speed to bother receivers.
The first thing you’ll notice from Humphrey is that he doesn’t shy away from contact. He will lower to boom and looks like a safety with corner coverage skills. His physicality also shows up in the run game. He ranked 22nd out of 183 corner backs against the run according to Pro Football Focus.
This is very important at the next level as shedding blocks of good run-blocking wide receivers is necessary to stop running backs from getting into the second level. This block shedding also shows up in the screen and short pass game. Humphrey’s physical nature allows him to get past or blow up blockers on screen passes or rally up and prevent costly yards after catch on short passes.
Humphrey also has great speed. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash time, good for seventh out of 50 defensive backs, and the eighth-fastest three cone drill time out of 32 runners. This speed provides him the ability to stay with receivers down the field and stay in their airspace, making every play a tough catch for the wide out.
Lastly, Humphrey has great instincts that you just can’t teach. He relies on these instincts to put him in the best position to come up with big pass breakups or interceptions. Below is an example of Humphrey using those instincts and coming away with a game changing turnover. Humphrey has a medium zone and is responsible for the receiver running the seven yard out, but his ability to read the play and trust his instincts allows him to drop back in coverage, undercut a receiver running a corner route, and come away with the pick.
When he acts on instinct, Humphrey is a dangerous player …
… but that can also come with it’s disadvantages, as seen below.
Here Humprhey is responsible for an outside zone, but follows the wideout who is running an in to the middle of the field. He neglects the slot receiver running the corner route, which would have resulted in a big completion were it not for the slightly inaccurate throw and dropped pass.
Thee type of plays are a result of Humphrey being very raw. Despite his talented play which has launched Humphrey to the first round of draft boards, he has only played two seasons, after redshirting his freshman year. There is still plenty that Humphrey needs to learn before he is able to maximize his abilities.
Most of the other knocks on Humphrey stem from this raw aspect in his game. He can get beat deep. Although he has good foot speed, as mentioned above, he is forced to rely on this a bit too often as he can get beat at the line of scrimmage as a result of his poor press coverage technique. He gave up around 20 yards per completion last year.
Humphrey has good hand placement on jump balls down the field, but his reactions can sometimes be a second slow, which prevents him from getting much needed pass breakups. Getting beat on deep balls is a huge no-no in the NFL, and if you don’t have elite deflection skills, it is even more noticeable. Early on, he will need good safety play behind him as he hones his skills and gains consistency and reliability in coverage.
Humphrey is seen as the number one or two corner in the draft, but the top level corner talent this year is not as high as it has been recently. That being said, corner is a position of need for every team, which increases the value of a physical player like Humphrey with a complete toolkit. He is a mid-first round talent that will definitely be able to help a team. I don’t view him as a number one corner, but given the right coaching and development, and some solid safety help early on, Humphrey will be a successful second corner for years to come in the league.
Corners are probably the third-most important position for a team behind quarterback and offensive tackle. It’s not just important for you to have a solid top two, but you need depth, as injuries happen and with teams spreading the field more often there will be times where teams have four to five corner backs on the field. Any team could use a player like Humphrey, but there are three teams were Humphrey could go and make an immediate impact.
The Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, and Chicago Bears all struggled in pass coverage last year. The Packers finished last year with the 23rd ranked defense by DVOA, despite having a defensive line with the sixth-highest adjust sack rate. They were also ranked 28th in DVOA guarding No. 1 receivers and 29th against No. 2s. The Redskins had similar failings, finishing 27th in pass defense DVOA despite a ninth-ranked defensive line adjusted sack rate and finished ranked 21st against No. 1s and 28th against the No. 2s. The Bears finished 24th in defensive DVOA with a fourth-ranked defensive line adjusted sack rate. They were 27th against No. 1 wide outs and 14th against No. 2s.
The Packers make the most sense to me as the need is there, Humphrey could immediately start at outside corner rather than nickel corner, and the safeties he’d be playing with in Clinton-Dix and Burnett are a bit better than those other situations. I don’t think the rookie would be too upset that he wouldn’t have to face Aaron Rodgers on Sundays either.
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